Close to 8 million Pakistanis in need of immediate humanitarian aid: UN official

09:01, August 20, 2010      

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With rains expected to persist throughout Pakistan for the next month, the United Nations on Thursday said the number of those in need of immediate humanitarian assistance there has increased from 6 million to 8 million people.

Martin Mogwanja, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Pakistan, briefed reporters here on the recent developments in the flood- stricken Asian nation.

"A very rough estimate suggests that the area affected by flooding is at least 100,060 square kilometers -- more than the surface area of England," Mogwanja said via phone link from Pakistan.

According to UN estimates, 54.4 million people have been affected by the floods -- the worst in over a century. Despite the staggering figures, Mogwanja said the number of fatalities remains low.

"The death toll in this disaster has drastically been far lower than in other recent major natural disasters and we wish to keep it that way," he said.

However, if urgent humanitarian needs are not provided for immediately, there could be a second wave of deaths caused by water-borne diseases, Mogwanja warned.

Various diarrheal diseases, which in some cases may be cholera, and dysentery pose the greatest risks to the population, reported the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) earlier this week.

Mogwanja noted that reports of diarrhea among patients in health facilitates have increased from an average of 13 percent before the flooding, to 20 percent after the floods.

"This increase represents tens of thousands of cases of diarrhea and thousands cases of acute watery diarrhea, all of which put the population at risk of dehydration and even death," he said.

Meanwhile, a food crisis threatens to unfold in the aftermath of the disaster, as 3.2 million hectares of crops have been destroyed and 200,000 herds of livestock killed.

The UN launched an appeal of 460 million U.S. dollars last week to provide emergency assistance to those in dire need.

At present, 239 million U.S. dollars has been received as part of that appeal -- not including bilateral contributions by countries that have donated directly to the government of Pakistan, Mogwanja told reporters.

Despite an increase in aid contributions over the past three days, Mogwanja said more financial assistance is needed.

"This is a gigantic natural disaster, it requires a gigantic response by the international community," he stressed.

Source: Xinhua


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